Sika has joined the Association for the Decarbonization of Industry in Zug, Switzerland, founded in June 2022, as a member. The aim of the association is to develop holistic approaches to CO2 reduction in industrial applications. The focus is on improving the economic viability of hydrogen technologies and integrating them into an ecosystem that will holistically and sustainably reduce CO2 emissions in high-temperature industrial processes and logistics with a secure energy supply. In conjunction with new manufacturing processes for hydrogen production, solid, powdered carbon is also being produced, which is to be further developed into a sustainable resource for construction and agriculture.

In Focus: New Manufacturing Processes for Hydrogen

V-ZUG AG's enamelling furnaces are to be operated without fossil natural gas in future
Image: V-ZUG AG's enamelling furnaces are to be operated without fossil natural gas in future. Photo: V-ZUG AG

In addition to Tech Cluster Zug, the regional energy and water supplier WWZ and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) as founding members, other members include household appliance manufacturer V-ZUG, the industrial group Metall Zug AG, waste recycler AVAG, pyrolysis plant manufacturer XGas Swiss (in formation), Partners Group, Accelleron Industries, ABB, Siemens, Holcim and various other companies. For Sika, the participation in the "VzDI" association offers exchange within a network of process specialists and users, access to "renewable" carbon as a potential substitute for industrial carbon black, and a sustainable additive for building materials.

To decarbonize high-temperature industrial processes, a novel hydrogen production process based on the splitting of hydrogen (chemically H2) from methane (CH4) - known as methane pyrolysis - will be applied in a planned demonstration plant in Zug, Switzerland. Methane is the main component of fossil natural gas and biogas, but can also be produced synthetically from renewably generated hydrogen and CO2. In the demonstration plant, pyrolytically produced hydrogen will replace fossil natural gas in V-ZUG's enamelling furnaces to show how such applications can be decarbonized. In parallel, the demonstrator will be available for use by other members of the association to clarify how to decarbonize their applications. Pyrolysis of methane, in contrast to previous industrial hydrogen production, does not produce CO2 as a by-product, but solid, powdered carbon, which is to be further developed into a sustainable resource for construction and agriculture, for example as an admixture in building materials or for enriching humus.

What is special about this new approach is that if synthetic methane is used for pyrolytic hydrogen production instead of fossil natural gas, this even results in negative CO2 emissions. More CO2 is removed from the atmosphere for the production of synthetic methane than is subsequently emitted again through all process steps. The carbon split off via methane pyrolysis is thus permanently removed from the atmosphere.

Technologies with negative CO2 emissions are needed on a large scale if Switzerland is to achieve its CO2 targets: after all, around a quarter of the CO2 emissions generated domestically today, i.e. around 10 million metric tons, cannot be reduced by switching to renewable energy.

Pyrolytic and Electrolytic Hydrogen Production - Two Processes, One Goal: CO2 Neutrality

Parallel to pyrolytic hydrogen production, a decentralized electrolysis plant for the electricity-based production of hydrogen from water is also to be implemented. Such plants supply high-purity hydrogen, such as that required for fuel-cell-powered trucks. Electrolytic hydrogen production has already been proven in practice. Methane pyrolysis, on the other hand, is a process that has only been tested in the laboratory but has been widely studied scientifically and is on the threshold of industrial application.

The Association for the Decarbonization of Industry is initially focusing on the use of methane pyrolysis in decentralized industrial plants connected to the gas grid. Around 50% of the high-temperature processes in Switzerland are suitable for this. With the realization of the demonstrator in Zug, the association intends to give this technology a boost for its industrialization. Thanks to their broad technical background, the partners in the network cover the entire value chain.